How to get into powerlifting in your 30s
Powerlifting is a great sport to get into and it challenges you to develop strength you think was beyond your potential. Many people get into powerlifting when they are young. Your teenage years and 20s are the best time to get into powerlifting as it is the easiest age to develop your muscle. Having said that it is still possible and a good idea to get into powerlifting in your 30s and beyond.
But how do you get into powerlifting in your 30s? To get into powerlifting in your 30s you need to assess your sporting background first. Depending on your training background, you may decide to self coach or hire a coach, you will need to establish a training venue and you will need to join a powerlifting federation to attend competitions.
In this article, I will go through everything you need to know in order to figure out the details of how you should get into powerlifting. Things like whether you need a coach or not, and if you need a coach, do you need regular intensive coaching or something less.
Understanding Your Training Background and Situation
Powerlifting is a great sport and there are absolutely no reasons why you cannot get into it in your 30s.
However, the process of getting into powerlifting in your 30s may be different for different people. This is because we all have different backgrounds in health and fitness.
It is important that you establish your health status before you embark on any sporting pursuit.
Note: if you have any health conditions whatsoever, you should always seek permission from a qualified medical professional to determine whether powerlifting is an appropriate sport to get into.
Assuming you do not have any underlying health conditions that will affect your health and safety during powerlifting performance, it will be quite easy to get into powerlifting.
Physical Activity History
Aside from health conditions, your physical activity history should be taken into consideration.
There is a difference between someone who has come from multiple sports and someone who has had a long sedentary lifestyle.
If you have had a very active lifestyle or have attended many different sports in the past, then you can get into powerlifting specific training.
If you have come from a very sedentary lifestyle, it may be useful to get a bit familiar with general strength training in the gym first. We will discuss later about using a coach.
Your injury history will be very important. A big predictor of future risk of injury is passed injury.
If you have had very minor injuries in the past and has not affected the way you move, you might find getting into powerlifting very easy.
If you have had some considerable injuries, it may be wise to work with a powerlifting coach or even a physiotherapist if it is an injury that still affects movement today.
Availability to Train
Getting into powerlifting may involve training 2 to 3 times per week to begin with as an absolute beginner.
However, if you have had a background in resistance training or some form of weight lifting, you may find yourself benefiting from training 3 to 4 times per week to begin with.
Having said that, powerlifting is not a sport that people do as a full time job. People generally work full time and do powerlifting as a hobby.
This may mean that your schedule may affect availability to train.
Nutrition and Lifestyle
Nutrition is an element of lifestyle that may change.
If you have come from a sporting background or an active lifestyle, you may find that nutrition does not change much for you.
If you have not, you will find that you will need to increase protein and calorie intake in order to fuel muscles that are working hard.
One side effect from powerlifting or strength training in general, is that your bodyweight may go up.
To keep yourself healthy, it is recommended to manage your bodyfat percentage (10% to 20% for men, 20% to 28% for women).
Hiring a Coach
External coach or self coach
Hiring a coach is not for everyone as some people like to self coach and learn from other resources. The internet is free at the end of the day.
The problem is that you can make a lot of mistakes that you are not aware of that could lead you to perform things inappropriately, inefficiently or even dangerously.
It also takes time to develop skill and knowledge about training powerlifting.
Benefits of a coach
What a competent coach can do is to provide you with the essential ideas about powerlifting and training practices that are most suited to your ability.
Coaching can provide you a good baseline level of confidence and competence so that mistakes that take time to undo will not happen.
A good coach should overtime provide you value that is beyond understanding training powerlifting and a written programme. A good coach will mentor you over time so that you can overtime take more agency over your own training and make decisions about your own progression.
It is entirely normal to be with coaches long term if you prefer to outsource any thinking about your training, but it is also entirely normal to outgrow your coaches.
Coaching Intensiveness: Group or individual
Having a coach can come in different forms, you can receive coaching:
- With an online coaching service
- With face to face individual sessions
- With group coaching sessions
The first practical factor that determines what you can or will choose is cost. The face to face individual coaching sessions are most likely going to be the most costly choice. However, the high cost will hopefully lead you to fast track with developing quickly..
Face to face sessions will also allow the coach to get hands on and coaching communication will be much easier. The coach will also spot issues that can be fixed promptly.
Group coaching sessions will be the cheaper alternative with face to face access to a coach but less attention. If you have come from a fairly active background, it may be that group coaching is sufficient to get you started. If you lack mobility and do not move well, or you have had issues with injuries in the past, it may be wiser to choose individual sessions.
Online coaching may be an alternative service and in my opinion, most appropriate once people have established their base with knowing the powerlifts. Online coaching can vary in price from country to country and communication may be a little slower than face to face coaches.
How to find a coach
Coaches can be found online through a search engine, on your country’s federation website or on social media such as Instagram.
If you are looking for a face to face coach whether it is for individual or group sessions, it may be worth seeing if there is a local powerlifting club. There are many powerlifting coaches that operate in gyms.
It is important to speak to different people with coaches and ask what sort of service they offer. A conversation to discuss the nature of services and expectations is a good idea.
Establishing a Training Venue
Potential places to train
There are different options for venues to train at. Specialist powerlifting gyms or clubs can be a somewhat pricey option compared to regular gyms but not always. This is because they are niche.
They often will provide competition specific equipment dedicated to training powerlifting along with a very supportive environment with individuals training towards the same goal.
There may be gyms of different types and they can really vary in terms of quality and appropriateness of equipment. This will impact training long term as you will not be used to competition equipment when you compete.
Coaches may operate in personal training studios, which are rarer and can often provide decent quality equipment too.
Cost will be a big determining factor especially if you are going to opt for coaching too.
For those who can afford to and have a home that can cater for this, you can build your own garage gym but there is always a health and safety risk to training by yourself.
Public gyms or powerlifting clubs
Choosing to go to a general public gym or a powerlifting club may not be mutually exclusive.
Some individuals may opt to train in both public gyms and in powerlifting clubs so they still get exposure to a supportive environment and competition kit.
It may be the inconvenience of location or the cost aspect. Geographically, there may not be a powerlifting club near you so you may have to settle for a gym.
Entering a Competition
Understanding and finding federations
Federations are organisations that determine the rules and they organise events. You will need to apply for annual memberships to the federation of choice.
Federations can have different rules and some federations opt for a drug free ethos whilst others do not.
International federations such as the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) tend to be the most popular and most prestigious one. It is a drug tested federation. Each country has their own branch federation under the IPF.
You can normally find out more about federations either online or from coaches in your local powerlifting gym.
Different federations have different rules for competition categories.
For most federations, there are regional qualifiers that are entry level, which give you an opportunity to qualify for national level competitions. National level competitions often require a qualifying total based on the standard they set year after year.
A qualifying total is the sum of the weight lifted for your best squat, bench press and deadlift at your qualifying competition.
Other things to take into consideration
Nutrition will be very important in powerlifting.
Powerlifting is a very physically demanding sport and a sport that demands the gaining of muscle mass.
This means that your nutrition intake may increase to accommodate the demands of your body adapting.
It is entirely normal for your body to change shape during powerlifting long term as it will put a demand for muscle mass to grow on you.
Training for powerlifting can be stressful and will also mean that there will be many days where you experience muscle soreness and stiffness.
If this is distracting, you may opt for strategies to help with soreness and stiffness such as hot baths and massages.
Getting into powerlifting can seem like a long chore but it does not need to be.
As always, being able to invest in a good coach and training at a specialist venue is the ultimate way to pursue powerlifting.
Powerlifting when compared to many different sports is a much safer sport in terms of occurrence of injuries but caution should always be taken when training powerlifting.
To have a long powerlifting training career, you should invest in your lifestyle and in sensible training.